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Why You Need a Data Catalog By Julie Skeen

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Data Catalog

Fostering enterprise-wide data understanding among business users to turn big data into actionable insights is the goal of every organization seeking competitive advantage. However, with data being collected, shared and deployed at today’s rapid pace, IT is often the only organizational department equipped to manage preparation of massive data amounts. At the end of the day, business users are all too often left confused and confounded by IT’s technical tools and jargon.

Data is a valuable commodity, but it is only an asset if business users can transform it into meaningful customer insights and improved outcomes. Organizations can no longer afford to leave business users solely dependent upon IT for the data they need given the current volume and velocity of data and a recurring IT/Business disconnect: IT typically doesn’t understand data from a business standpoint, and business users often lack the technical expertise to translate IT data tools into clear analysis in a business context.

Ensuring success with enterprise data requires the formal alignment of diverging lines of business, technology and processes through data governance to create a comprehensive data catalog. A data catalog organizes the technical details around data assets, or metadata, into defined, meaningful and searchable business assets to enable consistent understanding among all data consumers.

The Benefits of a Data Catalog

 A data catalog is essential to business users because it synthesizes all the details about an organization’s data assets across multiple data dictionaries by organizing them into a simple, easy to digest format. The data catalog provides clarity into data definitions, synonyms and essential business attributes so all users understand and can leverage their data as an asset. It also identifies data owners, stewards, and subject matter experts, so business users know where to go when they have important data questions—enabling easy collaboration between different departments.

A data catalog can also provide business lineage to give business users a clear understanding of the flow and dependencies of their data, from origination and throughout the data supply chain. It can also identify critical business process relationships, provide transparency into data quality scores and communicate data access methods and usage restrictions. By establishing enterprise-wide data definitions and transparency, business users can easily communicate and ensure they are using the right data, at the right time for the correct purpose.

A data catalog doesn’t just come together overnight. Data catalogs must be built and maintained through data governance over a period of months or even years.

Leveraging Data Governance to Create and Maintain a Data Catalog

Creating a data catalog is complicated because data is complicated, especially with so much data at stake. Different employees across various departments have vastly different perspectives on data. Cultivating cross-departmental agreement on standard data definitions based on individual perspectives of data is an exhausting task. That is, of course, unless data governance automation can streamline communication and collaboration.

A data catalog should be one component of an enterprise data governance framework within an organization that offers a comprehensive suite of capabilities. With integrated capabilities for data governance, data quality and analytics, the solution should connect the dots of data lineage, data definitions, and data quality with business terms from various departments.

The solution suite should also provide business users with the ability to measure the outcome of data quality rules, and gauge the impact of data quality efforts according to the expectations of the business. It should offer business users transparency into data ownership and accountability, as well as promote collaboration and communications between the data owners, stewards, and consumers.

In addition, the solution suite should have automatic discovery capabilities, enabling the capture and monitoring of changes to data. Once changes are discovered, they can be investigated to deliver meaningful insights. With the proper solution suite, enterprises can successfully create a comprehensive data catalog to ensure business users have a complete understanding of their data landscape.

To learn about other key data governance components, download the white paper below.

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